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State of Continuing Education 2023: Adopting a “One College” Mentality

As higher ed leaders look to meet the modern learners’ needs, it’s critical to adopt a “one college” mentality.

Continuing Ed has been serving the non-traditional demographic for decades and understand their needs. As more of these learners look to higher education to get the skills they need for the workforce, it’s critical to take a page from CE’s playbook. Higher ed institutions need to work together in order to meet modern learner needs. The follow excerpt is from the State of Continuing Education 2023 webinar.

Amrit Ahluwalia: What are some of the benefits that learners and institutions gain from having a collaborative model environment setup between continuing education and main campus to deliver non-degree corporate and microcredential programming?

Enrique Infanzon: I feel like we should limit this to three because anyone in CE have our own pitch for why it’s important. We at Miami Dade College have been doing a lot of work over the last three years to be very collaborative. We try to keep tight connections with our academic programs and the college as a whole.

We’ve developed stackable credentials from non-credit to credit which has not only allowed the college to onboard students that traditionally wouldn’t be thinking about a college career. Now, they see college as an option to obtain a certificate that can lead to a degree.

This model also allows the community around the college to engage with the college in multiple ways. We serve students at one-year-old (ie. Swimming classes) all the way to a lifelong learner that continues to upskill. That connection with the community is critical.

CE units are also naturally created to be the sandbox for innovation at the college. Any new program, ideas and innovative services that can provided to the students to help them along their journey. CE is probably the fastest and nimbler unit to do this.

It’s also critical to loo kat how we engage students of today. It’s not the same as it was 20 years ago, and it won’t be the same in 10 years. So that very tight collaboration between the main campus and CE, really benefits everyone from the community to the college, the programs, and the students, certainly focusing on continuing education.

Christie Shultz: Keeping that community connection in mind is really important and is something senior admin and governments respond to well. One of the opportunities that we have through connecting and collaborating is to really emphasize the need for learning across the lifespan and career span. Someone can start with a non-degree program and move into a certificate program and so on from there. They may also realize that throughout a career, you may not need a whole new degree. Instead, you can invest in opportunities to learn in bite-sized pieces to continue to learn and grow.

Often, I’m asked why I care about this so much. In my own life, my mother went back to school through a continuing ed program in her mid-40s and not only transformed her life but her children’s’ lives as well. Now I see that story everywhere. This isn’t just about the ways in which we provide off-the-shelf education or customized programming. It’s about recognizing the need to come back to the learner and how to support their life of transformation, growth and success. I see that happening in universities and college in ways where they are best supported by that intense and intentional collaboration.

Yakut Gazi: I don’t know if we can provide the full benefit to the learners, as long as we say things like “Main campus, the university, and CE”. The true success will be when our missions as CE is so well integrated into the DNA of the institution that folks don’t need to navigate in different places.

I’m curious to know what life would look like if the lifetime learning mission is the actual mission of the institution. And how is it reflected within our infrastructure and organizational structure and the approach we take to student services, programming, etc. That is the ultimate goal. It may mean units don’t exist anymore but there are certain things we can provide. There are a lot of advantages to functioning like that. In the meantime, messaging is important. So from the top down, if the lifetime learning message is strong, then we’ll find ways to align the messaging to provide more value to students.

To see the full webinar, click here.

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